21 October 2009
[tv] Adam Curtis Uncovers The Secrets Of Helmand … Adam Curtis interviewed by Andrew Orlowski … ‘Documentaries, and a lot of television now, is possessed by the mantra that people will only watch your film, or listen to your program, if it “touches something in them”. So the reporting has to find something in Afghanistan that’s some terrible thing that has happened “to somebody like you, or just like your child”. It’s done with the best intentions, and a certain kind of desperation to keep an audience. But it makes it more and more incomprehensible. Because it becomes a land full of victims and out there in the darkness, dark forces we don’t understand.’
14 August 2004
[al.qaeda] Inside Al-Qaeda’s Hard Drive — a look at the files from a computer looted from Al Qaeda after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan … ‘Renovating our computer doesn’t mean buying a new one but making sure that adjustments are made to suit Abdullah’s [bin Laden’s] work. There were many technical problems with the computer.’
27 May 2002
[aftermath] When Uncle Sam meets ‘Stan — another great report from Afghanistan …

‘In her book An Intimate History of Killing , the historian Joanna Bourke looks at the narratives men create to comprehend their own roles in war and, more specifically, in combat. Apparently, soldiers in each war look to the previous for a frame of reference. Those in the Pacific in the Second World War looked to the First World War. Those in Vietnam looked to the Pacific Theatre. No prizes for guessing where the men in Afghanistan were looking.

Thus the graffiti on the walls of the Portakabins where, if you got to them later than 9am, you’d be greeted by a 5ft-high pile of soldiers’ faeces:

Toilet 7: “I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds’; ‘I am become Bored, Destroyer of Motivation”

Toilet 3: “Though I walk through the valley of death I shall fear no evil, because I am the meanest motherfucker in the valley.”

Toilet 6: “MARINE – Muscles Are Required, Intelegance [sic] Not Essential”

Toilet 2 (women only): “I miss my cat.”‘

24 May 2002
[aftermath] GIs Battle ‘Ghosts’ in Afghanistan — great article about the mopping up operations in Afghanistan … ‘The soldiers would set up nighttime roadblocks to search every car coming north from the Pakistani border, a particularly dangerous task. “If the vehicle tries to roll through a roadblock that is clearly marked as a roadblock . . . they are now hostile,” Fetterman told his subordinates. “That’s hostile intent. They could hurt you with the vehicle. You are allowed to engage. I spoke to the lawyers about this.”‘ [via Red Rock Eater News Service]
28 February 2002
[war] Bin Laden’s private life revealed amid rubble‘Osama bin Laden’s underpants were hanging up to dry in the bathroom of his house outside Jalalabad. They were striped grey and black cotton boxers, with a label reading Angelo Petrico, a size XXL large for such a lean-looking man.’ [via Blogadoon]
17 December 2001
[wtf] John Walker — American Taliban and Comic Collector‘Everything is mint condition except for the What If 23, and Daredevil 318 which are slightly bent in the lower right corners. These are the asking prices, but I will consider any reasonable offers.’ [Related: DD #318 and What If #23 on GCD]
12 December 2001
[war] Broken al-Qaida driven from their last fortress — Another report from Rory McCarthy… this time from Tora Bora. ‘To one side lay a large sheet of American metal marked “Dispenser and bomb, aircraft CBU 87B/B”, the casing for the cluster bomb unit which levelled this ridgeline. A handful of desperate mojahedin soldiers scavenged for scraps of metal among the dozens of unexploded, yellow, cylindrical anti-personnel bomblets scattered across the hillside. On a second sheet of green metal casing nearby an American soldier named Gary had scribbled his own brief marking before loading the cluster bomb into the hold of one of the B-52s. “For those whose dreams were taken,” he wrote, “here are a few nightmares. This is gonna shine like a diamond in a goat’s ass”.’
9 December 2001
[photoshop] Something Awful photoshops Bin Laden’s Mountain Fortress‘Wow, Osama is like a villain in a James Bond movie… except that he doesn’t speak English and doesn’t have any sexy female underlings because he thinks the sight of a woman’s bared ankle will scorch his retinas.’
30 November 2001
[war] More from Luke Harding in the Guardian…

  • Allies direct the death rites of trapped Taliban fighters‘Last night a small group of up to 40 volunteers were still holed up in a house in the corner of the castle’s rambling compound. They signalled their presence with firework-like bursts of gunfire, just to remind their enemies crouching on the shadowy ramparts above them that they were not yet dead. After spending years killing their fellow Muslims, the Taliban’s Arab and Pakistani fighters have finally got the jihad they were looking for. The foreign volunteers – who surrendered on Saturday only to overpower their guards the following day – know they have hours to live.’
  • A tank roared in. It fired four rounds. Then there was silence in the fort‘Three Pakistani Taliban escaped from the 19th century fort on Monday night by scrambling out of a water channel. Two were shot dead immediately, but a third got as far as the nearby mud-walled village of Sar-i-Pool. There local people discovered him and killed him. He had some bread in his pocket, they said.’

29 November 2001
[war] Dead Lie Crushed or Shot, in the Dust, in Ditches, Amid the Willows — Luke Harding’s reports from the massacre in Mazar-i-Sharif have been excellent over the last couple of days … ‘Beyond the gazebo, next to where the Taliban had set up a makeshift mortar factory, were the corpses of several well-off Arab volunteers. Unlike their Pakistani counterparts, dressed in flimsy salwar kameezes, the Arabs wore expensive fleece jackets and trousers. One Talib corpse sported a San Francisco 49ers football sweatshirt; another a zip-up Dolce & Gabbana top. Osama bin Laden’s fighters may have rejected the west’s relativist ideology, but not its fashions.’
20 November 2001
[war] Afghans Taste Freedom — Smokehammer reports from Kabul. ‘…children play happily in the dust. Half an hour ago I helped an excited group skin a dead taliban fighter and turn him into a kite.’ [via As Above]
13 November 2001
[war] The Liberation of Kabul … eyewitness report from John Simpson. ‘As we walked into Kabul city we found no problems around us, only people that were friendly and, I am afraid, chanting “kill the Taleban” – although as we understand it there are not going to be that many Taleban around. It felt extraordinarily exhilarating – to be liberating a city which had suffered so much under a cruel and stifling regime. It was 0753 local time (0323 GMT) and Kabul was a free city, after five years of perhaps the most extreme religious system anywhere on earth.’
3 November 2001
[war] Victory for the doom-mongers in a passionate war of words — Simon Hoggart on Labour MP’s and Afghanistan. On a speech by George Galloway: ‘…he had never thought he would see the day when Labour – Labour! – MPs supported the use of cluster bombs. “Is this war so finely poised that we need the use of cluster bombs?” He recalled Clare Short crying on Brighton beach at the very thought of land mines. “But cluster bombs are much worse than land mines.” Ms Short sat squat, alone and disgruntled on the front bench as Mr Galloway reached his peroration. It was the Northern Alliance who had destroyed and beggared Afghanistan with its mediaeval obscurantism. It was the Northern Alliance who hanged the former president and stuffed his penis into his mouth – “those are your new best friends!” he raged.’ [Related: Hoggart Archive]
23 October 2001
[wtf?] A long way from Ambridge — Afghan’s are addicted to a BBC World Service Soap opera based on The Archers

‘The Afghans were very news hungry,” says Andrew Skuse, a social anthropologist who wrote his PhD on the success of the soap. “They really trusted the BBC. After years of abuse of the media under various regimes, the BBC was seen as more trustworthy than the national service. Some thought it was the national service. They hadn’t a clue where it was located. People would often tell me they thought the BBC was a village in Afghanistan”.’

[politics] ‘Those that are not with us are against us’ — interesting transcript of a conversation between the Labour MP for Shrewsbury Paul Marsden and the Chief Whip Hilary Armstrong about UK Government policy over Afghanistan…

‘HA: In fact we may well hold a vote, but if we do, it will be whipped. PM: That is outrageous. You won’t even give us a free vote on whether we go to war – it is an issue which should be a matter of conscience. HA: War is not a matter of conscience. Abortion and embryo research are matters of conscience, but not wars. PM: Are you seriously saying blowing people up and killing people is not a moral issue? HA: It is government policy that we are at war. You astound me.’